Books are a portable magic

Stephen King said it in his essay On Writing. I might add that making this magic a reality is a part of my job.
Well, you've written your book, now it's my turn to make it look great. What do I need to start working besides a deadline? Follow this checklists.

Cover design
  1. Brief synopsis or a few key chapters of the book.

  2. Final title of the book and author's name.

  3. Any other text, logos or photos that should appear on the cover, including spine and back.

  4. Cover size and spine width.

  5. ISBN or barcode.

  6. Links to the book covers that you like and, if possible, that you don't like. To clarify the point, some comments on what you like or don't like about them would be very helpful.

  7. Your suggestions or ideas. Please note, some ideas cannot be implemented literally, but I will do as much as possible.

Page layout & typesetting
  1. Edited and proofread manuscript.

  2. Page size.

  3. Illustrations. Each one must include a number, a caption and source information.
    The illustration number should always appear in two places: the document main text (e.g. see fig. 1) and near the illustration itself (Fig. 1).

  4. Captions provide titles or explanatory notes. Every image should has one.

  5. Images must be sent as separate files, the best quality possible. Dropbox provides a very convenient way to upload and share multuple files.

  6. Keywords list for indexing.

Getting paid
  1. Upfront deposit for the project is 50%.

  2. I'll send you an invoice via Payoneer.

  3. The rest is due upon completion of the project.

Why do self published books look self published?

 “Self published” needn’t be derogatory—it can be something to be proud of. A self published book can and should look better than its commercial counterpart. But reality bites...

Sad, but true—design can give away a self-published book. It may cause the reader to close the book and walk away, just like that.

No single characteristic spelled out “self published.” It's the lack of simple fundamentals. The cover is very important, of course, but poor layout and sloppy typesetting can kill any book, no matter how good the story or the cover is. Everything matters: balanced margins, font, justification, hyphenation, leading, chapter openings, etc.

And I do not even mention basic grammar and punctuation. The Word's grammar checker is never reliable. If you allow Word to “correct” your grammar and punctuation and assume that the result is going to be good, then think again. It's likely to be far worse.

I'm appalled that some self-published writers don't take the necessary love of their work to make it the best it can be. If you don't have the knowledge or skills in some areas, there are tons of people out there (including me) who will do what they can to help you create a work of art.